Saturday 27 October 2012

Medieval Magic in Bundelkhand - Gwalior

So we are on a roll here :)
Barely a fortnight after my work trip to Bundelkhand, and less than 3 weeks after our Jaisalmer break, we were (once again) sitting in a Shatabdi at 6 am, speeding towards Gwalior. I opted to miss all of the Navarathri festivities in our complex which are always a lot of fun and include Golu invitations, Kanya pujas, the Raavan-vadh, and a Dandiya nite, in favour of a holiday with the family to some fairly offbeat destinations.
Some months ago, I'd looked at the map and found to my surprise that Gwalior was just a 3.5 hour train ride away from Delhi. you can imagine, that set a lot of bells ringing in my head :) I'd always assumed that since it was in Madhya Pradesh, it would be a good long train ride to get there, not realizing until my map-poring exercise that it's such a large state and abuts so many other states that it lies just over the border from UP. The more I read about MP, the more intrigued I became and the more possibilities it opened up! The Dussehra break for S and the kids prompted me to apply for a couple of days off from work, and get our bookings done.
First stop Gwalior, where we stayed at the new Neemrana 'non-hotel' property. We are great fans on Neemrana and would recommend their properties to anyone looking for living in a restored heritage building (like a fort!), some great decor with local touches (a little or a LOT!), no TVs in the room, and impeccable service. The place in Gwalior we stayed in has been open for almost a year but they are still restoring and building to add more rooms so it was a work-in-progress.  
A temple (one of many) inside the property

The zenana quarters

Our 'balcony' :)

Cranes and cows all around the moat-like depression around the zenana quarters
We reached Gwalior around 10, checked in and decided to take a nice long post-prandial nap in preparation for the arduous evening sightseeing :) Our first stop was the Scindia museum at the Jai Vilas Palace, the erstwhile home of the Scindia royal family.
All I have to say is that the royals had it good while it lasted. The museum was really interesting. There were stone carvings and statues dating from the the BC era through the 11th-12th Century AD! None of them were even behind a glass case and I was terrified lest I knock them over. The rooms retained a lot of their original furnishing - there were formal dining and drawing rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, budoirs, a nursery, a study and many others. Luxuriously and exquisitely furnished.

The pooja room

Can you see the train tracks on the table? The table is so long they needed it to move the dishes!
The kids had a lot of fun exploring the museum, though Y was very puzzled about why all the rooms were empty, who lives there and why are we in their house? Finally she said that she wants to get married to a prince and live in a palace! (My girl has some priorities right :)) Ads was fascinated by the many stuffed tigers on the walls and in glass cases and by the many paintings and photos of tiger hunts. By all accounts the Scindias may have decimated half the tiger population of the state.
Later, we stopped by Tansen's tomb, where the major excitement was spotting a mongoose! The next day, we went to the Mansingh Palace which was completed in 1508 AD by Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior.
A view of the palace exterior inside the Gwalior Fort. The fort is of course at an elevation and the city is down below.

Look at the peacock carved into the wall - isn't it exquisite?
We also visited the Saas-Bahu temple, a set of 2 temples which had the most beautiful carvings. There wera  few other places we could have visited but on that day they were closed off due to an event happening in the fort.

So ended our short but very interesting stay at Gwalior. There's more medieval magic coming up in my next posts :)

Wednesday 17 October 2012


Another successful work-travel accomplished with Dad taking charge of the home and all that it contains.
I called up S one morning to check in. After I dialled him, I realized it was a Saturday and that I may have woken him up. S was scornful. Woken up? I’ve been to the gym, Ads is having his milk, everything is under control. Don’t call me, I have a PTM to attend, ballet class to take Y to, and groceries to shop for.
Oops. As much as I like my man to be empowered in the domestic department, I hate knowing he can do it as well as I can :)
Details of my trip here.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Monitoring screen time

People are constantly amazed when they hear about the minsicule screen time my kids have. These discussions invariably happen in the company of friends and neighbours who are moaning about how much TV their kids watch, how they are addicted to video games/ipad/Wii/PSP and the computer. I am constantly being told about how video games and the like will take over my kids' life real soon. Just wait till Ads/Y are a little older and they will be addicted to XYZ, I hear.
Well, I really don't think so! IMHO, I have laid a pretty strong foundation of limited screen time (especially TV) and on top of that, I can be quite the harridan of a mother. Yes, a strong word, isn't it?! There's space for only one nag in the family and I get to wear that crown in ours. I'm confident that the kids will toe my line for atleast a few more years.
I admit I am surprised (not in a nice way) about the amount of TV even toddlers watch. I had it drilled into my head ever since my early mothering days that kids under 2 should not watch any TV and kids over 2 and under 6 can watch an hour or two hours at the most. Having rigorously followed this dictum, I now find myself in the middle of a virtuous circle where Ads and Y (now aged almost 4 and 7) rarely ask for TV, having never got into the habit of sitting in front of the idiot box. Our TV is quite literally the idiot box - it stands dumb and silent most days!
What they do watch is a couple of cartoons a week (maybe half an hour of Chota Bheem). Ads is now hooked onto Animal Planet and NatGeo Wild videos (both on YouTube and TV) and he does a couple of sessions during the week on days when he has no tennis class or homework. This amounts to 2-3 hours a week at the most. He shuns the ipad and reluctantly uses it for an hour or so over the weekend, working on a math app that I have downloaded. Y is much more of an ipad aficionado. I’ve found it very useful to teach her numbers, alphabets and now some basic spelling using some of the awesome apps available. 

In consequence of such limited screen time, I find that the children have a lot of time to do other things - get out into the fresh air, run around and play, go cycling or scootering, draw, paint and craft, go for tennis and music class; also fight, make-up, cry, scream and yell as kids will! When I am working (after they get back from school, I tend to have some calls and such) and unable to give them my time or attention, I'm content that they aren't in front of the TV but doing something a lot more productive involving working with their hands or engaging with a real person instead of an animation.
Not watching TV myself has been a boon in this regard. My kids may complain that Amma spends a lot of time working on her laptop, but they never complain that I plonk myself in front of the TV! S has been trying to get Ads to watch some sports with him but he isn't very keen, so we haven't pressed him.

Ads still can't switch on or operate the TV/remote on his own and I don't bother to teach him! The first time he saw a Wii was during the summer, in Chennai at a friend's place. I'm far from being tech-hater or technophobe; I have seen first hand the learning that can happen through tech tools. In any case, learning today is far more interactive than it was two decades ago and it would be foolish to deprive our kids some of the tools that are available today. The operative word being some. 
As in everything else about parenting, decisions about screen time and technology also need to be thoughtful and reasonable. Moderation seems to have yielded good results so far. I'm sure as they grow older, they will want to watch more TV. Ads seems to have a liking already for Masterchef Australia! :)